The candidate as customer

The new dynamics of talent acquisition

The candidate as customer
Posted by Arthur Mazor and Bill Cleary on November 15, 2016.

The competition for talent is intensifying. Continuing economic growth is giving skilled employees more leverage in the job market, raising the bar for companies looking for a talent edge over rivals. Gone are the days when HR could simply announce open positions and expect to get plenty of interested candidates.

To win out in this new marketplace, HR and talent acquisition professionals should move firmly beyond traditionally reactive, localized approaches to hiring and set up an experience that engages job candidates throughout the hiring cycle. HR can take a cue from colleagues in sales and marketing, who are applying an increasingly expansive view to developing and retaining customers over the long term.

Today’s reality
With job seekers finding more options, it’s getting harder for companies to fill positions. According to Bersin by Deloitte research, in 2014 companies took an average of 52 days to fill a position, compared to 48 days three years earlier.1 In another survey for Deloitte that year, three-quarters of surveyed HR leaders rated talent acquisition as an important or urgent issue.2

This leverage is making candidates more demanding of employers. That’s especially true of Millennials (the 18–34 age range), who have grown up with highly responsive and personalized consumer technologies. They tend to expect recruiters to provide on-demand, customized information on the company and the position.

What’s more, these interactions have effects that can extend well beyond whether the person ends up in the position advertised, reaching all the way into the company’s brand. Candidates can easily spread the word about good or bad experiences with their friends, or even on social media. Millennials in particular are likely to see companies as a single whole. Their experiences with hiring will likely color their beliefs as a buyer of a firm’s products and services. A mishandled recruiting effort could well mean one less customer for your business.

The customer-candidate paradigm
Given this holistic connection, recruiters can learn from how their sales and marketing colleagues handle major accounts. Salespeople have grown increasingly sophisticated in how they approach these prospects. They throw out a broad net to capture leads, then systematically whittle those leads through the sales funnel to maximize repeat customers at the other end. They know they are selling not just a one-off product but also the experience of the entire company as a good business partner. They pay attention to the entire process.

Similarly, marketing professionals seek to build positive relationships with customers through every interaction and channel, often building “journey maps” to highlight key opportunities throughout the customer life cycle.

To apply these approaches to talent acquisition, recruiters can start by looking beyond individual departmental needs and understand larger goals driven by the company’s overall strategy. Which areas will likely grow? Which capabilities are especially important in gaining competitive advantage? Knowing which areas have priority can help HR invest wisely to promote a satisfactory experience for the most candidates.

Too often, organizations adjust recruiting reactively, driven by forces such as cash flow or the demands of powerful business units. Another Deloitte survey indicated that about two-thirds of companies surveyed are still largely reactive in their hiring. They may have implemented standardized assessments and other disciplines, and begun to manage their employment brand. But they haven’t connected hiring plans with their company strategy.3

A strategic assessment looks at candidates afresh, segmenting them into specific talent markets by geography and function. Recruiters can then communicate with hiring managers about the key prospects to avoid mix-ups and delays. They can also communicate with candidates based on desired preference to build the initial relationship, get to know the candidate and what’s important to them, and use that information to build a more positive experience. In some cases, companies will want to hire talent ahead of need, in which case HR should be ready to devise development activities. A prized retail manager, for example, might be hired even before the store is built, and then sent to train at existing operations.

Once a job offer has gone out, HR still has plenty of opportunities to create a positive experience. When the candidate accepts, then hiring managers need to effectively introduce the new-hire into the onboarding process. A negative experience at the start the employee life cycle can sour the relationship even before the first day at work.

If the candidate declines—or even if the company chooses someone else—it’s still important to continue the relationship. A follow-up survey can reveal why the customer did not “buy.” Maybe the time wasn’t right, but the candidate may still be a good fit later. HR should create low-cost ways to maintain the conversation to easily re-engage the candidate in the future. In doing so, HR has, at a minimum, helped ensure the process ends on a positive note, regardless of the outcome. This relatively simple step can result in a candidate who may be far more likely to buy in the future, whether a job or a product.

Arthur Mazor is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for HR Capability & Customer Experience and Global HR Service Delivery. He collaborates with complex, global clients to achieve high business impact with a focus on transforming human capital strategies, programs, and services.
Bill Cleary , GPHR, is a senior manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s U.S. Human Capital service area. Bill’s primary focus has been on complex global HR transformation projects with extensive experience focused on Talent Acquisition.

1 Talent Acquisition Factbook 2015: Benchmarks and Trends in Spending, Staffing, and Key Recruiting Metrics, Bersin by Deloitte, WhatWorks Brief, April 2015.
2 Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce, Deloitte University Press, 2014.
3 High-Impact Talent Acquisition: Key Findings and Maturrity Model, Bersin by Deloitte, WhatWorks Brief, September 2014.

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